Nel's New Day

May 28, 2014

Abramson ‘Difficult,’ Baquet ‘Cooperative’

Jill Abramson is no longer the executive editor of The New York Times. People started out saying that she was fired because she hired a lawyer after she discovered that she received a far lower salary than her predecessor and then moved into the gossip level that she was “difficult.” They didn’t even directly call her the sexist term “bitch.” Now we have that nice Dean Baquet to decide what we get to read in the newspaper that was known in the past as “liberal.”

Last weekend, he buried an important piece by Gretchen Morgenson on types of private equity fee abuses called  “The Deal’s Done. But Not the Fees.” Her piece follows the Wall Street Journal expose of new fee abuses, including pay for services that were never rendered.

Investors in these funds, limited partners, have pushed back against the private equity firms, general partners. The fee abuse is important because the general partners are trying to get more rents from limited partners than they had agreed to pay—a form of Elizabeth Warren’s “tricks and traps.”

Morgenson wrote:

“In some instances, investors’ pockets are being picked,” Andrew J. Bowden, director of the S.E.C.’s office of compliance inspections and examinations, said in a recent interview. “These investors may be sophisticated and they may be capable of protecting themselves, but much of what we’re uncovering is undetectable by even the most sophisticated investor.”

Bowden suggests that the SEC is seeing cases of embezzlement. The public doesn’t realize that private equity general partners collect not only 20 percent of investment profit but also far more fees such as those for transactions and monitoring. To find out more about this, check out Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt’s Private Equity at Work. In this, they write:

“The conventional understanding is that general partners have earned about two-thirds of their compensation from carried interest [the upside fees] and one-third from fixed components such as fees. At some point that relationship changed. One econometric study of 144 buyout funds from 1993 to 2006 found that almost two-thirds of the revenues of PE firms came from fixed components, but this study did not show how or when the proportion of fixed-to-carry changed over this time period.” (p. 254)

Another fee has come from the private equity firms’ hiring senior advisors for acquired companies and then partially collecting the salaries from limited partners. Private equity firms now make more money because they declare the hired executors as unaffiliated contractors. In that way, they don’t have to reimburse limited partners at all, requiring them to pay substantial costs.

Even worse may be the fees charged for services never performed. After Biomet was sold for $13.4 billion, the private equity firms collected not only its 20-percent share but also another $30 million in “monitoring fees” through 2017 although the deal closes in 2015.

We’ll see if Baquet continues to shelter uncomfortable news.

Statistics about women in journalism show that 52 percent of the people in the United States are poorly represented:

  • Every single editor of The New Republic has been male.
  • Almost every single newspaper chain is headed by a man, except Gannett.
  • A recent New Yorker issue was entirely authored by men.
  • Out of 814 Pulitzer winners, only 113 were female although they were more likely to have graduate degrees and work at a top newspaper.
  • Men had almost twice as many bylines at women at the nation’s 10 most widely circulated newspapers; the NYT had the biggest gap with 69 percent of bylines going to men.
  • Women are more likely to cover health and lifestyle and less likely to cover crime, justice, and world politics.
  • Male opinion-page writers outnumber female writers four to one at three major papers, including the NYT, and four newspaper syndicates.
  • Not one woman has hosted a late night show.
  • Few women have programmer-journalist roles, even on liberal projects, and fail to get media notice.
  • Women have much greater difficulty in getting venture capital for their projects; only 2 percent goes to women.
  • Digital-first newsrooms are now hiring more programmers and techies who are mostly male. Women have only 27 percent of computer science jobs, and that number isn’t growing.

When Abramson was at the NYT, Slate’s Amanda Hess noted that the newspaper published stories about virtual sexual harassment of female gamers and female homeless children, disrupting what she called “the paper’s masculine approach to news coverage.”

But maybe Abramson was just “difficult.” With Baquet, we may be looking ahead to a kinder, gentler style of news reporting from The New York Times.

Baquet has a history of cooperating with the government, for example when he agreed not to publish the location of a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia in February 2013. The location was eventually revealed but buried within a story. In contrast, The Washington Post printed the location in a story’s headline.

Explaining why he didn’t follow up on a September 2013 Guardian story showing how NSA data on U.S. citizens is shared with Israeli intelligence, Baquet said, “I didn’t think it was a significant or surprising story.” He further justified ignoring it. “I think the more energy we put into chasing the small ones, the less time we have to break our own. Not to mention cover the turmoil in Syria.”

Baquet defended the newspaper’s “low-key approach” to marking the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War by saying, “The war itself has been dissected to a tremendous degree. You have to have something new or fresh to say.” Maybe the legacy of torture and cancer in Iraq after the war? Or the false pretences for the war with no one held accountable? The NYT’s promotion of the manufactured case for the unpremeditated attack on a foreign country? An examination of whether the newspaper might do it was also possible?

Last summer, the NYT also beat the drums for a war in Syria. When asked about the possibility of repeating the newspaper’s mistakes in calling on war, Baquet said, “I’ve never said, ‘Let’s remember what happened with Iraq.’ I don’t think it’s necessary. I haven’t had to instruct the staff to ask hard questions. They are doing that….  The press’s coverage of Iraq always lurks in the background. But it was a long, long time ago.”

At the time he said that, U.S. troops had been officially withdrawn only two years earlier. Veterans don’t see it as “a long, long time ago.” Thanks to the United States, Iraqis are under a brutal regime led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Baquet also supported the Pentagon’s unproved claim that one in seven freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay engaged in militant activity after leaving prison. His refused to use Chelsea Manning’s new name after she announced her transition to being a woman demonstrates a transphobic approach to news.

As a Los Angeles Times editor, Baquet agreed with the government to not publish a story on AT&T’s role in the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program as shown by documents available from whistleblower Mark Klein. Again, Baquet claimed that there was no government pressure and thought that they didn’t have a story. Klein went to the NYT with his documents.

At a conference this year, Abramson said, “The responsibility that a news organization has to a source is to really live up to the word that is given by one of our journalists to a source.” She asserted that the public had a right to know the dimensions and scope of all “eavesdropping programs” being used for surveillance as part of the “war on terror.”

Maybe that’s why she was seen as “difficult.”



  1. Aren’t all of us women difficult.


    Comment by Lee Lynch — May 29, 2014 @ 8:57 PM | Reply

  2. Here’s to more difficult women! And thanks for all the research you do to keep us informed–and angry! 🙂


    Comment by jstjohn1 — May 28, 2014 @ 8:37 PM | Reply

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